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Baltimore can go ahead and have the first pick in the draft

Losing is unfun.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman (30) walks off the field after being removed from the game in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Kansas City Royals were very bad very quickly. Case in point: it took until April 20, in game 18, for the Royals to win their first game that was not a shutout. Yes, you read that correctly. For 17 games, the Royals lost every single one where the opponent managed to score a run. Such a feat would be extremely memorable, except that 2018 has turned into a truly terrible nightmare.

Quick, how many losing streaks of at least five or more games has Kansas City undergone this year? Answer: six. The Royals have lost at least five consecutive games on six different occasions this year. That is simply absurd. In 2015, the Royals’ longest losing streak was four games. If there was any doubt as to the differences between 2018 and 2015, look no further than that.

On April 7, somewhat facetiously, I tweeted that, if the season ended then and there, the Royals would have the third overall pick in the 2018 draft.

The Royals nabbed the worst record in baseball within a few weeks, but “worst record in baseball in April” doesn’t mean all that much.

But it was about to get so much worse.

On June 3, the Royals lost a game against the Oakland Athletics, snapping the possibility of a two-game winning ‘streak.’ If you happened to be put under a sleeping spell that evening by a marauding witch—hey, weirder things have happened in 2018—and woke up on the morning of Tuesday, July 10, you would find that the Royals won a grand total of four additional games. Four. National Football League teams can win four games in that time and it wouldn’t even be weird.

In the midst of that, er ‘run,’ the Royals finally grabbed the worst overall record in baseball again. At that point, I called it “success beyond our wildest dreams.”

If you’re following along, you might be wondering why a team that had won four games in over a month’s worth of contests didn’t descend to Worst Overall Team earlier, well, may I present to you the 2018 Baltimore Orioles.

Between June 7 and July 8, the Orioles only won five games. In doing so, Baltimore essentially matched a historically terrible month and change of baseball from Kansas City, just barely ceding enough grand to slip to second-worst overall for a little bit. The Orioles quickly grabbed their spot as Worst Overall back from the Royals just a few days after June 23, doing so with a vengeance by going on a 1-13 stretch from June 24 through July 8. Kansas City hasn’t been able to pull back since.

And you know what? That’s ok. Baltimore: you can have the top pick in the draft. Go nuts. I, for one, am extremely tired of historically terrible baseball, and the first pick overall just isn’t worth it.

Part of why that’s ok is because recent history suggests that first three overall picks in a given MLB draft are all extremely valuable. Yes, getting the first pick in the draft is helpful if there’s a consensus number one pick and generational talent—think Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg—but in most years, that’s just not the case. Considering the fourth team in the overall inverted standings is a whole nine games behind the Royals right now, Kansas City is pretty safe in their chances for getting a top-three pick.

But, even if it actually did help to get that first overall pick, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

The Royals just went on a reasonably effective homestand, landing them at 31-70. That is not a good team. That is, in fact, an 112-loss pace, which would be the worst team in Royals history by five games. The 2018 Royals are a profoundly shitty team. They can’t hit, their starting rotation is in tatters, their defense isn’t good, and their bullpen is made up of dudes with names that were seemingly generated at random from a database.

But the Orioles? WHOOOO BOY, the Orioles? They are somehow on a 116-loss pace. At a winning percentage of .284, Baltimore is in rarefied air. Here are a full list of worse seasons among all MLB teams since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947:

1962 New York Mets: 40-120, .250 win%

2003 Detroit Tigers: 43-119, .265 win%

1952 Pittsburgh Pirates: 42-112, .273 win%

That’s it. No other teams. None. That is how bad the 2018 Baltimore Orioles have been.

Now that you’ve got that through your noggin, consider the fact that the Orioles traded Manny Machado, a legitimate superstar, last week.

The 2018 Orioles could legitimately compete with the 2003 Tigers for the worst team in modern baseball history. They could compete with the 1962 Mets for worst team in baseball history, modernity be damned.

This is what the Royals would be competing with if you are rooting for them to get the top spot in the 2019 MLB draft. And you know what? It’s just not worth it. There is a huge difference between being historically noncompetitive and terrible to being merely the worst team in the league in a given year. Have at it, Baltimore. Chase history all you want. I’m done hoping the Royals catch you. Actually winning a game once in a while is worth it.